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Plan At Statehouse Would Have FirstEnergy Customers Pay More To Bail Out Two Nuclear Plants

A bailout is being proposed for two Ohio nuclear power plants that would end up increasing rates by 5 percent for customers of their owner, troubled Akron-based FirstEnergy. Backers of the plan under consideration at the Statehouse say the plants are needed to make sure Ohio has a diversity of energy sources. They also say the plants provide jobs and tax money. The Davis-Besse and Perry plants generate 14 percent of the state's electricity. Both plants are aging and face stiff competition from cheaper natural gas plants. The fracking boom has resulted in utilities in Connecticut, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania seeking bailouts for their nuclear plants.  Utilties say they want the same preferential treatment given to renewables,  The potential for rising utility bills is drawing pushback from manufacturers and the American Association of Retired Persons. AARP Ohio spokesperson Trey Addison says plant owners already won billions of dollars from Illinois and New York, although they are being challenged in court.

Addison says the plan would force FirstEnergy customers to pay above-market rates for power. He says a study by Ohio State and Cleveland State Universities shows the state's deregulation of the industry saved consumers nearly 12 billion dollars between 2011 and 2015. Industry analysts say while other states are letting their aging plants close without bailouts, with natural gas prices expected to stay low, shutting down plants may have no impact on electricity bills.

Jim has been with WCBE since 1996. Before that he worked as a reporter at another Columbus radio station, and for three newspapers in Southwest Florida.
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